A film review for a change, but anyone who enjoys medieval fantasy, especially with a Nordic flavour, will love this.
For a start, there is a hero quite unlike the typical Hollywood midgets (Tom Cruise, Mel Gibson, Brad Pitt); tall and slender, handsome and shy, Benno Fürmann (that is who I’m describing!) plays Siegfried, the young crown prince of Xanten, whose parents were killed in a raid and who was then brought up as his son by a blacksmith (Max von Sydow, as always excellent). This simple blacksmith, however, turns out to be also a master swordsmith and swordsman and he teaches the boy all he knows.
One night a shooting star falls to earth in the forest not far from the smithy. Two people run to investigate. One is Siegfried, now full grown, the other Brunhild, Warrior Queen of Iceland (played by Kristanna Løken), who is travelling with her entourage by ship along the great river, presumably the Rhine, and happens to be spending the night nearby. They fight over the strange lump of metal lying among the blackened and smoking tree stumps that is all they find where the shooting star landed. Siegfried wins. Brunhild is astonished. No one has ever beaten her before, and it has been foretold that only one man ever will, the man destined to be hers – which is why she fights, and kills, all who come to her in Iceland as suitors.
All night they make love, and at dawn she leaves, with Siegfried vowing to come to her and be king to her queen, and Brunhild promising to wait for him and to love only him for ever.
From the remains of the meteorite, the lump of metal that they found, Siegfried fashions a sword that is superior to all others: the sword which will become known as The Sword of Xanten.
Then one day he goes into the city with his “father” to deliver a consignment of swords to the King of Burgund. There, the King’s sister, Princess Kriemhild (the beautiful Alicia Witt), falls in love with him. And when he goes out alone and slays the hitherto invincible dragon (huge and very realistic) and claims the dragon’s treasure, the famous Rheingold, this does nothing to lessen her adoration.
He, of course, shows no interest in her: his heart is elsewhere, with the Valkyrie Queen Brunhild in Iceland.
But trouble is looming, for at the core of the dragon hoard is the Ring of the Nibelungs. And though warned not to touch it, the ever-fearless Siegfried takes it, laughing, for his own.
Everything starts to go wrong. Great love turns into tragedy.
I find it difficult to fault this film. It has everything, beautiful scenery (the smithy in the forest with the river swirling past, three longships sailing towards us through the mist in the fjord), authentic magic (shape-shifting, Odin’s ravens, the witch casting her runestones) all vividly and convincingly portrayed, two women who have never been denied anything in their lives, the one so forceful, the other so devious, and now both so passionately in love with the same man …